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Francisco Martinez’s predictions
I love you, March. Your upsets and Cinderellas, your buzzer-beaters and your heart breakers. For a few weekends, you show me why I love college basketball and sports altogether. These next few days are, by and large, the greatest days in all of North American sports.
But first and foremost: Duke is winning, so keep your eye on Zion. The freshman forward has become one of the best players in college basketball, and is projected by many sources to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. You know why I have to do it to them.
Onto my upsets and other picks: I grew up near Saint Mary’s, so I have to acknowledge some biases. But this Gaels team, that dismantled Gonzaga’s high octane offense in the West Coast Conference Tournament, goes to show that they can easily apply their conference-winning tactics to March. If Saint Mary’s control the pace, they control the game. Also be on the lookout for Houston, who I have in my Final Four. The Cougars are likely going through North Carolina en route to Minneapolis, so they’ll have to up their blocking game against a Tar Heels team that 11.2 percent of their shots blocked. And of course, the rule of thumb is to go relatively chalk from the second weekend on. So while I do have a 12/13 match-up in the second round, and one 14 seed (Yale) moving on to the round of 32, I also have all No. 1 seeds in the Elite Eight. But damn, do I want March to prove me wrong.
Garrett Brown’s predictions
Don’t ride the media hype train, my fellow staff included. Duke is very good, but they are also very beatable. But before we go over Duke’s inevitable demise, there’s a couple teams worth mentioning. Oregon and Iowa State are arguably the two hottest teams entering the tournament after winning their respected conference tournaments as underdogs. You know what happens with hot teams, they either burn out early or torch everything in sight. There is a legitimate case for either program to make a deep push or get bounced out early. Now Nevada, oh my lord, I love this team. The combination of returning mostly the same team that made a deep run last year, along with coach Eric Musselman’s NBA style five-wide scheme, could cause huge problems for teams that rely on traditional big players.
So I ended up with a final four of Duke versus Nevada and UNC versus Tennessee. While a Duke versus UNC final would be great, it isn’t going to happen. UNC had a tough loss to Duke, who essentially out physical-ed them, and Tennessee is just as, if not more physical than Duke. I think Nevada versus Duke would a fascinating clash between the experience and shooting finesse of Nevada against the star power and physicality of Duke. Against better judgment, I’d give the edge to Duke because I don’t want to be the one who bets against that team. Nevada has shooting and Duke has star power but you know who has both… Tennessee, who I’m calling to upset Duke and be the ones cutting that net down when it’s all said and done.